This line from A Course in Miracles has fascinated me since I first encountered it:
Each decision that you make is one between a grievance and a miracle.
That statement is quite confrontational when you really look at it. There’s no middle ground. Kind of like life’s version of “love me or leave me.” Now, whether or not that’s true that there’s no middle ground, I’m not here to debate. What I’m interested in most is the degree of insight this perspective provides on the choices we make—specifically, how conscious and intentional are those choices, and how do they combine to create our own personal versions of heaven and hell?
The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.
—Milton, Paradise Lost
Let’s begin by drilling down into what this “miracle or grievance” idea is saying.
Essentially, it’s saying that in each moment, you are choosing whether to appreciate life for what it is OR resent it for what it’s not.
But what of moments that blend things we appreciate with things we resent? Does appreciating those moments mean we must resign ourselves to accepting things we don’t like? If so, then how do we grow, learn, and progress?
Acceptance is very simply a gracious acknowledgement of what is. It does not mean resigning, condoning, or endorsing. And until you can acknowledge a situation as it is, your power to change it is handicapped.
When you don’t accept something, you’re denying what is, and denial does not lead to change or growth. When you deny what is, you stop perceiving the world. You’re like the child with his fingers in his ears, repeating, “I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you.” This limits your options and your ability to respond and create change. The ability to perceive a situation—especially the parts of the situation you want to change—gives you the most power to influence the situation and create the very change you want. Only through acceptance can we harness our real personal power to create and take action.
—Peaceful Productivity Now, p. 61
But as valuable as it is to learn acceptance as a precursor to effective change, that’s not even the most important part of this conversation. There’s another reason why consciousness and intentionality of choice is so fundamental that it means the difference between experiencing life as heaven or hell.
Our choices are how we consciously interact with the world. We interact with the world in many unconscious ways, too. But if we are able to rise above the level of instinct and reaction in any given moment, it is only because we’ve evolved the ability to choose.
The most direct way we can participate in and converse with life is through the choices we make. How conscious and effective our choices are determines the quality of that conversation.
—Peaceful Productivity Now, p. 72
Is your conversation with life a miraculous collaboration, or is it a grievance-filled argument?
Now, here’s where things gets tricky.
Let’s say you just happen to be choosing a grievance in some given moment. A coworker stole your idea and presented it to the boss. You find a fresh dent in your car in the parking lot at the supermarket. Your best friend forgets your birthday. Et cetera.
You feel betrayed, pissed, hurt. That’s what NOW is for you—one big honking grievance.
You become aware you’re feeling this way, and you think, “I should find the miracle. I shouldn’t be focusing on the grievance.”
Hm. Do you see what just happened? Look for it…
That thought was another grievance. You made yourself wrong for feeling betrayed, pissed, or hurt. Making yourself wrong doesn’t get you to miracles. So where do you go when you’ve chosen a grievance? You don’t go anywhere. Stay with the grievance because…
The grievance is the miracle.
Both miracle and grievance are perspectives; they are mental concepts we layer on top of our experiences. In other words, a miracle and a grievance are simply different interpretations of an experience.
Therefore, even an experience of intense physical or emotional pain can be interpreted as a miracle, just as an experience of tremendous good fortune can be experienced as a grievance.
But let’s avoid platitudes and address directly the burning question on your mind: What is the miracle of intense pain?
Very simply put: Depth of feeling. Pain is a strong feeling that wakes us up from the numbness of ego. In other words, pain snaps us back to the present. Any intense feeling can do this, including feelings like love, joy, and gratitude. But if we were to live in a space of love 100% of the time, we would certainly go numb to it. That is how our bodies and brains are built. We need contrasting experiences.
So grievance provides contrast. That is its miracle. Because life is contrast. Light does not exist without dark, nor does hot without cold, trust without betrayal, or connection without separation.
The miracle of grievance is that miracles could not exist without grievances. And yet, if even grievances can be interpreted as miracles in this way, then yet another interpretation is possible: It’s all miracles.
What a beautiful paradox…
I invite you to share your grievances and miracles.
Conscious living means conscious choosing
Read Peaceful Productivity Now and learn how to:
- Respond consciously and intentionally to life, no matter how it shows up
- Recognize the gifts and miracles that surround you in every moment
- Connect to your “Big Yes” in life so that your choices become filled with even more meaning and passion
- Transcend the “lie of time management”
- And much more…